Alaska awarded planning grant for child mental health

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Alaska Department of Health and Human Services Section of Maternal, Child and Family Health has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for planning appropriate mental health services for Alaska's children up to six years of age.

"Children who experience healthy social and emotional development in their first six years have a solid foundation for leading productive and successful lives," Jay Livey, Alaska DHSS Commissioner said. "Alaska has an abundance of anecdotal reports about social and emotional problems of children and the lack of appropriate mental health services for them. We need a disciplined approach to document the need and plan the right services."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded grants competitively to states that proposed to design and implement demonstrations using new models for delivering health care, long-term care and human services to low-income adults, families and children.

Over the past year an interagency committee in Alaska outlined the gaps and barriers that hinder access to appropriate mental health services.

"One barrier is a general lack of awareness that very young children can have mental health concerns," said Pam Muth, Health Program Manager for the Division of Public Health. One step in the planning process is an information program to educate the public and policy makers about the importance of helping families and caregivers provide the right environment for social and emotional health for young children.

A second important element is forming a public and private partnership that will develop a needs assessment, strategies based on findings, and an action plan.

"The aim of this project is to broaden responsibility beyond the governmental sector for public awareness, funding and problem solving," Muth said. "Because Alaska's barriers and gaps in services for young children are sizable, these strategies will be a model for other states with remote and frontier communities."

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